Have I told you about my parents? The short of it is, they worked every day including all major holidays and weekends for decades. Yes, even Christmas! A few years ago, I set aside money in a gift fund in hopes to treat them to a trip when they finally decide to retire. They retired a couple of years ago and last year I was able to make my longtime dream of treating them to a vacation come true. I didn’t expect for my mom to request Vegas but what momma wanted momma got!
Because they chose a fairly inexpensive place to vacation last year, I still had some money left in the gift fund for them. So this year I decided to make one of my dad’s dreams come true. He had written in a journal he gifted me about what it was like to escape Vietnam after the war.
People stayed quiet and looked out the ocean.
They seemed to be in some kind of meditation.
Besides worrying about the safety of the trip,
the sea worthiness of the boat, and the danger
of encountering the Thai pirates, did we really
leave Vietnam behind? Would we ever see Vietnam
again? What about the loved ones that we left
behind? What will be waiting for us when we
come to our destination? I dreamed of being on
Miami Beach, laying on the sand, doing nothing
for at least a month, of going back to college,
studying more, rebuilding my life!!
(Full excerpt here.)
I couldn’t give him a month but loved that he let me take him for a weekend. I say “let” because it took some convincing. It also took the generosity of my sweet friend Nazanin. My parents had the pleasure of seeing her grow up the last 19 years of our best friendship. She offered her guest room and by the end of the weekend, my parents wanted to formally adopt her! She introduced us to her favorite restaurant, famed Yardbird Southern Table & Bar. They have another location in Vegas.
We ordered Nazanin’s two favorites, the Fried Green Tomatoes BLTs and Smoked Brisket Sandwich. I ordered the Chicken ‘n’ Watermelon ‘n’ Waffle and the Shrimp n’ Grits. The thing about my parents never vacationing and doing all their own cooking is they don’t get to experience any of the food trends or iconic American dishes, like chicken and waffles and shrimp and grits!
A decadent appetizer to start, the fried green tomatoes with pork belly set the tone for our indulgent brunch!
Smoked Brisket Sandwich; melted Swiss cheese, house pickles, house-made ketchup, grilled country bread; $16
Heavy on the tender meat and heavy on the toasted crusty carbs, I can see why the smoked brisket sandwich is my friend’s favorite!
Chicken ‘n’ Watermelon ‘n’ Waffles; $36 (feeds at least two!)
The chicken and waffles was the favorite thing my mom ate during our weekend in Miami. The juicy chicken had a kick to it and I loved that it was paired with watermelon! If you find yourself here for the first time, it’s a must-try.
Shrimp n’ Grits; seared shrimp, roasted tomatoes, Virginia Ham, Nora Mill Grits; $28
The grits in this dish had almost a unique custard or casserole texture. I kept coming back for more bites even when I was beyond stuffed.
My beloved parents at Yardbird!
Yardbird was a delectable vacation stop for us. Next time I’m trying the Maple Bacon Doughnuts and the Fried Oreos (only available during dinner). Reservations are encouraged and recommended!
Questions: Where was your last family vacation? Favorite vacation meal?
True Food Kitchen opens in Austin today! I had the pleasure of previewing their menu last week.
My friend Kate told me that one of her favorite healthy restaurants is opening a location in Austin. As she was telling me about the restaurant, the name True Food Kitchen rang a bell. One quick search in my email and I saw that I was invited to preview their menu. I took Kate as my date and let her introduce me the wonders of True Food Kitchen.
Tucked in Austin’s new Seaholm District, True Food Kitchen felt like a hidden gem. Their entrance was flanked by adorable herb gardens, setting the tone of their mission, which is to provide healthy anti-inflamatory food with great flavor. We both ordered “refreshers”, which were like healthy mocktails. I started with the pomegranate limeade but quickly traded it for a Kale-Aid (kale, cucumber, lemon, ginger, celery, apple; $6) after tasting Kate’s. They also have actual cocktails, but we abstained since we had to return to work.
Edamame Dumplings; with dashi, daikon, and white truffle oil; $9
I learned that the menu we sampled is currently unique to Austin. True Food Kitchen is testing out a new menu and debuting it with the grand opening of their Austin location. Kate and I shared the edamame dumplings to start. It was delectable, and I loved the dashi sauce. I kept spooning it over the dumplings. I couldn’t quite taste the truffle oil in this dish, but it was still perfect in my eyes.
Red Chili Noodle Bowl with Shrimp; Chinese eggplant,
gai lan (also known as Chinese broccoli), snow pea,
shitake mushroom, cashew, cilantro; $18
I may have stopped reading the rest of the menu when I saw they had a noodle bowl. If there’s one food I can eat every day, it’s noodles. Abundant with vegetables, these stir-fried noodles felt healthier than the noodles I typically indulge in. Eating these noodles was the most virtuous I’ve felt while eating noodles.
Kate ordered the Seabass, and we both oohed and ahhed over how divinely it flaked with our prodding forks. The flavor from the lemon-nooch emulsion danced on my tongue. She was quite pleased with her dish and I loved that she shared.
Chia Seed Pudding; chia seeds, soaked in rich coconut milk, with bananas slices and crunchy toasted coconut
If someone told me that I’d be haunted by a chia seed pudding before I had this one, I’d laugh in his or her face. But I can’t shake this chia pudding from my mind. I would swim in a bowl of this if I could. In fact, I may try to replicate this dessert soon.
As we drove back to our office, Kate and I both agreed that we were happy with our meal and would order everything again with exception a couple of the refreshers. We both endorse the Kale-Aid. We can’t wait to go back!
I recently spent a weekend in Fredericksburg with Sugarface. We stayed at a secluded cabin rental about 15 minutes away from downtown Fredericksburg with our puppies. It was a welcomed reprieve from a stressful week. I enjoyed the evenings in with him, playing scrabble and watching the dogs go wild on the property. Though we spent a good amount of time at the cabin, we also made time to walk Main St. and to dine at three quaint establishments in Fredericksburg, and I wanted to share them with you!
We brunched at Sunset Grill before heading out to Enchanted Rock for our hiking adventure. We loved our whole experience at Sunset Grill, from sitting outside in their tiny courtyard, to the happy service, and finally to their delicious brunch menu. Sugarface ordered the biscuits and gravy and I the chorizo omelette. We both gobbled up our entrees and made happy plates. Sugarface declared my omelette the best omelette he’s ever had. (And if you’ve seen him judge food, you would know he’s not an easy win.)
Santa Fe omelette; chorizo, onions, jack and cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole and pico; $10
Country Biscuit and Sausage Gravy; with eggs and roasted red potatoes; $9
On our first night, we had dinner at Otto’s, a recommendation from my friend Amy. We started off with their Flammkuchen (flatbread with crème fraiche, cambozola, gruyère, caramelized onions, arugula candied bacon, aged balsamic). It had all the ingredients I normally love, but I thought the flavors fell a bit flat.
For entrees, I had the Foie Gras “BLT”. (I will order foie gras so long as it’s on the menu.) The deconstructed BLT was uniquely executed. Sugarface loved the tomato jam. He ordered the German classic Duck Schnitzel and we both thought his duck was cooked to perfection. Though the texture was perfect, I wish it was a tad more seasoned. All in all, I can see why Otto’s is a popular dining spot in Fredericksburg; the ambiance and service were warm and inviting. I loved dining on their twinkle lit sidewalk patio.
Tucked in the basement of a sophisticated furniture and home goods store, Vaundeville had a swanky speakeasy feel to it. Jazzy live music was playing as we sat at the bar. Sugarface ordered the French Dip Sandwich and I ordered the Black Truffle Pizza. He said his sandwich the best French Dip he’s had and again he’s not prone to superlatives. The black truffle pizza was my favorite dish of the weekend. They were so generous with their black truffle shavings! It was the perfect meal to end our quiet and pleasurable weekend in Fredericksburg. Thanks again to Amy for this recommendation!
Black Truffle pizza; black truffle bechamel, housemade ricotta, charred asparagus, and black truffle; $30
It started raining on our way out of Fredericksburg and it foiled our plans of trying out Burger Burger on the patio with our pups. We also were interested in the brisket burgers from Jennie’s Smoked Burgers and Tornado Fries. I guess that means we’ll be coming back to Fredericksburg!
The February Austin Food Bloggers Alliance happy hour was hosted at Pacific Rim Sushi & Yakitori Lounge. Owned by the same people of Maiko Sushi Bar, Pacific Rim treated us to gyozas, chicken and salmon yakitori skewers, spicy yellowtail rolls, tuna and avocado nachos, and sake mac & cheese. The popular favorite was sake mac & cheese, also made evident by what was most instagrammed under our hashtag. When we were coming back for seconds and thirds of the sake mac and cheese, Owner Benny Leung warned us to save room for the surprise demo.
He then rolled out a hot rock and introduced his new menu offering of Japense Hot Rock, where you can order fresh ingredients that are to be cooked to perfection table side. Everything from seafood, Wagyu beef, lamb, duck, to a variety of vegetables like asparagus and eggplant. We all were entranced by the smell of sizzling meats and vegetables. Greedily, we dipped our samples into a trio of sauces offered (ginger, ponzu, and BBQ) and murmured to each other our satisfaction.
If you’re a food blogger in Austin, I encourage you to join Austin Food Bloggers Alliance, a community of likeminded bloggers, all passionate about flavor. If you’re a local Austin business interested in hosting us, shoot me an email!
What made this post both difficult and easy to write is that any venue could be a great spot if you’re spending quality time with your boo thang or boo thang prospect. Still, in case you’re stumped, here’s my take on best date spots in Austin. I focused on coffee date alternatives, spendy dates, dives and holes-in-the-wall, cozy and intimate restaurants, and venues that serve more than just food and drink. I hope you enjoy this list and are inspired to go on more dates!
For when you’re tired of the coffee first date but aren’t ready to commit to a full meal
A sweet gelato addition to East Austin. If the date goes well, you can wander East 6th for drinks or trailer eats. Pictured above is their take on sgroppino. Traditionally done with lemon sorbet and vodka, their take involves peach sorbet and prosecco. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention they’re also a bar! A gelateria and bar!
A coffee bar downtown, Halcyon has become an Austin staple and their table top s’mores an iconic Austin dessert. They often have live music in the evenings and serve comforting small bites and desserts.
Counter 3 . Five . VII only seats 25 or 26 people at their counter and they feature tasting menus of either 3, 5, or 7 courses. (Oh, now I get it!) My first time at Counter 3. Five. VII was on Valentine’s Day when my sweet friend, Foodie is the New Forty could not make her Valentine’s Day reservation and gifted us the romantic dinner she was supposed to have. The up close and intimate seating sets the tone for the night and the menu was precisely executed right before our eyes.
If this is your first date, you can slyly work in the fun fact that Lyndon B. Johnson took Lady Bird on their first date at the Driskill. Just don’t be creepy about it. You can read my post about the Driskill here.
The name of this restaurant warms my heart as it is a nod to one of my favorite books. Celebrity chef Tim Love, the master mind behind Lonesome Dove brings to Austin another fine dining restaurant that specializes in game.
Food and service are on par with their sister, Uchiko. Also another great place for celebratory dates.
For classy people who enjoy dives and holes-in-the-wall
1005 E Braker Ln., Austin, TX 78753
Literally tucked inside a convenience store, Chicken Lollypop serves Indian fusion that is cheap, delicious, and unique. You obviously have to order the chicken lollypops as a starter.
Kin & Comfort
1700 W Parmer, Ste 100, Austin, TX 78727
Tucked inside Hanna World Market is Kin & Comfort. I’ve tried everything on the menu and liked it all. Order the Shrimp and Grits. Since you’ll already be in the neighborhood, hop on over to Snow Monster for a fun dessert option.
When I asked about date spots on social media, Aurel of Gourmet Cubicle suggested Bullfight. “Especially on Wednesdays, because after drinks and tapas there you can just walk over to ColdTown Theater for improv comedy.” They serve Spanish tapas and small plates.
I love Sway. In fact, Sugarface and I celebrated our one year anniversary here after watching Die Hard. It was the perfect night. Try the Son In Law and definitely have the Thai Tea Affogato for dessert.
1519 E Cesar Chavez, Ste 200, Austin, TX 78702
Some of my close friends say Bufalina is one of their go-to date spots. Quaint space and great pizza. If you are discouraged by the line, take a leisurely stroll hand in hand to WeatherUp.
Sure dinner and a movie can be a bit of a date cliche but not if it’s dinner and a movie at the same time. If you go to the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar you can grab drinks and snack at Highball. (Read my post about Highball.)
I’ve done a few cooking classes with Central Market and think they make awesome date nights. What’s not sexy about getting handsy with your food and sharing bites over wine?
So that’s my take. What’s yours? If you’re in Austin, what are your favorite romantic places? If you’re not in Austin, tell me about your most memorable dates!
This post was written in collaboration with Austin Food Bloggers Alliance‘s yearly City Guide project. This is also an updated version and my second year of covering best date spots in Austin. You can read 2015’s post here.
I can eat noodles almost every day and Thai noodles are my kryptonite. In Austin, Sugarface and I rotate between Titaya’s, Madam Mam’s, and Sway regularly. However, after writing this city guide and surveying my friends, I have a couple more places I want to visit! I hope you enjoy my Austin Thai Restaurant City Guide!
5207 Brodie Ln., Ste 200, Austin, TX 78745
When I asked on social media what people’s favorite Thai places were in Austin, I received a few votes for IM Thai. One of my previous coworkers sang IM Thai constant praises and swore up and down their crab rangoons are the best he’s ever had. I tried them off his lunch once and they were indeed pretty good.
One of the only things I miss about living in North Austin is living behind Kin and Comfort. Tucked inside Hanna World Market, Kin and Comfort offers Thai inspired cuisine. I’ve tried everything on the menu and liked it all. Do order the Tom Kah Shrimp & Grits when you go.
I’ve been going to Madam Mam’s since they first opened in 2001 and I first moved to Austin as a college student. People tend to either love or hate it. Count me in the love camp. Pictured above is Sugarface’s regular order, the Pad Woon Sen.
Formerly, Madam Mam’s. Though the owners split ways and Sap’s became its own separate entity, their menus remain similar. Photographed above is my favorite dish to order from them, the Pad Kee Mao with flat noodles.
May I recommend the Son In Law and the Thai Tea Affogato? I love Sway. Especially for date night. In fact, Sugarface and I celebrated our one year anniversary here after watching Die Hard. It was the perfect celebration.
We had our last Austin Food Bloggers Alliance board meeting here. They can be inconsistent in their quality but they remain a beloved neighborhood establishment. They have an attached coffee shop and bakery and also sell a few Asian groceries. The header photo up top is of their Pad Kee Mao with pork belly and yellow curry.
Thai, How Are You? is on campus. Their name is a nod to the beloved “Hi, How are you” mural that was painted on the side of their business way before they moved in. Thai, How Are You? makes Sugarface’s favorite Pad Kee Mao. It’s extra saucy and abundant with fresh vegetables. They have beer and happy hour and a young demographic.
Vinaigrette hails from New Mexico and opens today in Austin. I had the pleasure of previewing their menu yesterday and was impressed by both their beautiful airy space and their healthy offerings. Vinaigrette is a salad bistro with entree-sized salads that can be customized with delectable meats like duck confit and seared scallops. Though the salads are the stars of Vinaigrette, they also offer soups and stews, sandwiches, rich sides and desserts to accompany your leafy greens.
My life-long reluctance to eat salads has been something I’m trying to diminish as I grow older. I love that Vinaigrette can be a delicious positive influence on people like me. I ordered the Beet Goes On salad with duck confit and my friend Ashley ordered the Cherry Tart salad with added scallops. They both had the building blocks of satisfying salads, bright dressings, fresh leafy greens, salty crunchy nuts, and bits of savory cheeses. The added duck and scallops made the voluminous salads even heartier.
I felt so virtuous eating a big salad for lunch that I didn’t feel guilty for pairing it with fried goat cheese balls, creamy mac and cheese, and a lemon curd cheesecake. No regrets, y’all.
Cherry Tart ; dried cherries, mild feta cheese, peppery baby arugula and toasted pecans with champagne vinaigrette; $10.95. With Scallops, additional $8.
The Beet Goes On; baby greens and arugula tossed with tangy goat cheese, chopped pistachios, balsamic roasted beets and honey-balsamic vinaigrette; $11.95. With Duck Confit, additional $7.50.
Stella San Jac started offering brunch service January 1st. A delicious way to bring in the year! Last week I tasted their new brunch menu with some of my favorite food bloggers and instagramers. It’s always such a pleasure being around likeminded people and indulging in delicious conversation while noshing tasty bites.
We started off with Stella San Jac’s fresh pressed juices. I’m not as health conscious as I should be and haven’t caught on to juices but as I write this I’m craving their Acai, pomegranate and coconut juice. I would guzzle it down if it would just materialize in front of me.
If you’re not interested in their juice menu, they have a wide variety of brunch cocktails. That’s a Blueberry Snowcone front and center and the Stellamosa in the flute.
If you step foot into Stella San Jac for lunch, dinner or brunch and are not vegetarians, you must order deviled eggs and biscuits for the table. I don’t issues a lot of mandates so trust me on this. I’ve been to Stella San Jac’s before and intermittently crave both the deviled eggs and the biscuits. Not surprising since the deviled eggs have Andouille sausage in them and the biscuits are finished off with a slathering of bacon fat.
Of all the brunch items we shared, my three recommendations are the avocado toast, the shrimp and grits, and last and my favorite, the chicken fried steak with over easy eggs and hash brown waffles.
Just as I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, Stella San Jac treated us to their bacon churros and chocolate mousse. I mean, talk about finishing strong.
Full Disclosure: Gourmet by Numbers approached me to try their service and offer a giveaway. I was not monetarily compensated for this post.
I’ve dabbled in meal delivery services before where portioned and uncooked ingredients of recipes were shipped to me. What I like about Gourmet by Numbers is that they do not ship nationally but deliver locally in Austin. I love supporting local businesses. Gourmet by Numbers offer weekly subscriptions as well as the option to buy individual meals when desired. I chose the Shrimp Pad Thai from their expansive menu to make for Sugarface and me on a Friday night spent in.
My meal kit arrived in an adorable cooler pouch. The kit should be good for up to 3 hours before having to be put in the kitchen in case you’re not home when it arrives.
The best part about meal delivery services is how much time it saves from general cutting and prepping. It took me less than thirty minutes to get dinner on the table. My favorite part of cooking is the actual cooking so it was such a treat when I could throw on the garnish without having to rinse and cut. No shrimp peeling and deveining were necessary. I didn’t have to break out my cutting board! The only glitch was that the noodles were a tad overabundant for the amount of sauce in this particular recipe. That was easily fixed by throwing in some sauces I already had in my pantry.
It was such a lovely Friday night evening in with Sugarface watching Nurse Jackie and couldn’t have done it without Gourmet by Numbers!
Gourmet by Numbers would be great for those who live in Austin and don’t have time to grocery shop and still want to have home-cooked meals. So if you’re in Austin and would like a chance to win a meal from Gourmet by Numbers, check out my giveaway!
This givesaway is open to anyone in Austin, Texas. Please check if you are within Gourmet by Numbers’ delivery zone. Keep in mind, they do have an option to pick up too! Do any of the following to earn entries. Each task will earn you a separate entry. Please leave a comment to tell me which ones you’ve done. Please also use your real email address. I promise I won’t spam you. This is so I can contact you if you win. Giveaway closes 5pm CST on Friday, Feburary 5th. I’ll announce and contact the winner soon after. Good luck!
The first monthly happy hour of 2016 with Austin Food Bloggers Alliance happened last week. We started the year with a bang at Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden. Chef Ted Prater and owner Ben Seigel offered up their time and space and hosted an educational and delicious evening. The happy hour started with Chef Ted and Ben demonstrating how pickles and sausages were made. Then they threw the sausages on the open fire grill and showcased some of their signature sides (hello Poutine and fried cheese curds!). We ended the evening eating and chatting under the night sky.
I’ve been to Banger’s many times but it has been some time since I’ve been. It’s the perfect place to convene with friends when you want an easy, relaxed place that caters to all, dogs and vegetarians too. (They have a fenced mini dog park in their patio area!) I hate to admit that I had started to take Banger’s for granted. Isn’t it human nature to take for granted the ever reliable people and things in your life? We forget to appreciate all that they offer. I was humbly reminded what all Banger’s has to offer to Austin after listening to Chef Ted talk about making sausage. He is so passionate about his craft; it was palpable in his energy.
It’s hard to pick a highlight of the evening but if I had to, it would be when Chef Ted let me stand by him and get my (gloved) hands dirty. I tried my hand at twisting sausage links, putting the slippery casing on the machine, and cranking out sausage. I was delighted!
Another way to remedy taking things for granted is to see it more curiously and experience it from different perspectives. And that’s exactly what my evening with AFBA and Banger’s did. I got to hear two voices behind the establishment express their love for their work. I saw my fellow food writers engrossed and then happily tucking into sausages. I tried two items I never tried before there and can’t wait to go back and order them again. The fried chicken sausage when I’m feeling naughty and the vegetarian BLT sausage when I’m feeling virtuous.
I left with a renewed appreciation for Banger’s and a resolution to come back more often.
The photo of me and Chef Ted is credited to fellow AFBA board member and friend, South Austin Foodie.